Keep junk food out of high school cafeterias

Monte Sonnenberg

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

Students at a Brampton high school are worried that they will get in trouble for posting a video on YouTube in opposition to the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act.

This is the legislation the McGuinty government passed in 2008 banning sugary drinks, trans-fat, and greasy, high-calorie junk food from Ontario high schools.

The students should have nothing to worry about.

The video, at nearly six minutes long, is well done, well argued and respectful in tone.

It doesn't slander anybody and isn't abusive.

That said, the video doesn't overturn the case for regulating what is available to teens in schools.

Fact is, we have a teen health crisis on our hands related to diet. The province continues to struggle with that.

The province did not ban junk food in high schools on a whim. Instead, it responded to alarming trends which continue to menace the well-being of our young people.

The Centre for Addiction & Mental Health estimates that 14% of students in grades 7 to 12 are in poor health. This is more than double the 6% reported in 1991.

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, 3% of Canadian youth were obese in 1979. By 2004, that figure had risen to 8%.

It continues to climb.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation also estimates that 60% of Canadians age 18 and older are overweight or obese.

The students feel they should have the right to choose what they eat and drink at school. That would be fine if we knew that teenagers would make good choices and consume junk food in moderation.

The statistics, however, don't bear this out.

Too many young people are out of control with their food choices. Frankly, they are ruining their health and their future. The least a caring, compassionate society can do is put the toxic choices out of sight so that those at risk can focus on improving their situation.

A big part of the problem is that the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act doesn't go far enough. Poor diet is only half the equation. The other half is inactivity. Physical education classes lasting at least half an hour a day should be mandatory in Ontario high schools for students who are still healthy enough to participate.

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